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Effective Co-Parenting After Divorce

Divorce is the termination of a spousal relationship however if children are involved, a new relationship of co-parenting between exes needs to be established and maintained.  Assuming the absence of high risk factors such as domestic violence, child abuse, substance use/abuse, and high conflict, co-parenting is necessary in order to promote emotional stability in children of divorced parents.  With divorce comes change, which can be extremely stressful, confusing, and difficult for everyone involved, especially children.  In order for children to go through healthy adjustments as a result of divorce, they need to maintain positive relationships with both parents, feel confident that their needs will be taken care of by both parents, understand that they had nothing to do with the divorce, and expect that they will not be placed in the middle of their parents’ conflict

So what does effective and healthy co-parenting look like?  For one, co-parenting may look different from family to family as a result of factors such as location of residence for each parent, work schedules and responsibilities, children’s ages, as well as the degree to which parents can communicate without conflict.  However, despite each different situation, there are some common aspects that each family should consider in order to develop and implement an effective co-parenting plan:

1.     What decisions need to be made regarding the children’s involvement with education, religion, extracurricular activities, medical and mental health treatment, sporting events, and social activities? 

2.     What avenue of communication will be used between parents as well as how often will communication occur? Will it be done over the phone or through text messages, emails, or done in-person?

3.     How will the exchange of children be completed? Will it happen in a neutral public place or will drop off/pick up happen at each parent’s house?

4.     How much time will children spend with each parent? What type of schedule will be established so that the children know what to expect?

5.     How will discipline be addressed with each parent?

6.     How will emergencies be handled? Which parent will be notified in cases in which an emergency happens outside of the home?

These are just a few decisions that need to be well thought out amongst parents in order for day-to-day life to run smoothly for everyone involved.  Solely developing a co-parenting plan is not enough but also requires each parent to follow through and maintain consistency with it in order for it to truly be effective.  Because life can change in an instant, it is also crucial for parents to be open to making adjustments to the plan when indicated.  Many divorcing parents benefit from seeking professional support with a therapist to better help them to address any issues as well as to identify, establish, and implement a co-parenting plan that satisfies everyone involved.

~ Cory Stege, M.S., LMFT